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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Int'l Power Rankings | 08.28.06 Edition

Since the last International Power Rankings posted on July 6, we've seen the beginning, middle and end of Operation: Lebanon. What we're witnessing now is an aftermath that is playing out like a classic "What If?" scenario—what if the "international community" tried to proactively transition a war situation into a peace?

With harsh Realpolitik themes like deadlines (a good solution now is better than a great solution next month), authority (who's responsible for assembling this force? For leading it?) and the concept of following promises with action, this is truly a landmark experiment in international law and order. Can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Previous rankings:   6.19.06 | 7.5.06


1. United States. America's biggest role in the war was the refusal to take action. While this was a clear indication that it supported Israel's effort to destroy Hezbollah, it was also a clear indication that international action operates much slower in the absence of American influence.

2. China. How to become a superpower in 20 years: ally yourself with just about anyone (i.e. Iran and Venezuela), refuse to get involved in volatile situations (i.e. Iraq and Lebanon), and wait it out.

3. Russia. Along with China, Russia's biggest contribution to the world in the past few months is its prevention of any UN Security Council action against Iran. Thanks, Putin.

4. Japan. As Russia and China get cozy, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is making an effort to reintroduce Tokyo to the rest of Asia. If he fails, it's only a matter of time before the words "Shanghai Cooperation Organization" becomes synonymous with "Warsaw Pact."

5. France. Up Arrow Worked out a ceasefire in southern Lebanon: score one for France. Eventually following up with a dedication of 2,000 troops and UNIFIL leadership until February: score two for France. Now the only thing that stands between Chirac and a Nobel Peace Prize is Hezbollah. Don't hold your breath.

6. Britain. Down Arrow Airport terror breakups + all troops tied up in Iraq = a country playing defense in the power game.

7. Germany. Down Arrow A flat-out refusal to get in a position where they may have to fire on Israelis means that, for the time being, Germany has to sit this out. I know we're all itching for those German troops to get back in action, but we'll just have to wait a little longer.

8. India. Steady economic growth and gradual nuclear legitimacy may create superpowers, but they don't make headlines. Not this decade, anyway.

9. Pakistan. Here's to Pakistan: the source of (and solution to) all the world's terror.

10. Iran. Up Arrow Well, here you have it. Iran in the Top Ten—and, for the first time since the Power Rankings began, ahead of Israel. Brilliant tactical move #1: use Hezbollah to bait Israel. Brilliant tactical move #2: gave Hezbollah over half a billion dollars to rebuild Lebanese homes. Now they're using their buddies Russia and China to keep Security Council sanctions at bay. It's Iran's world, people, and we're just living it in.

11. Italy. Up Arrow Welcome to the Big Leagues.

12. Israel. Down Arrow They destroyed enough of civilian Lebanon to piss off the world ten times over, but destroyed too little of Hezbollah to declare victory. Translation: Israel didn't win this one, people. And now, as Israel's air of invincibility dissipates alongside the rise of Iran, they may have to change both their short-term and long-term tactics. Would not want to be in Ehud Olmert's shoes right now.

13. Brazil. Down Arrow The Age of Brazil will come someday, but it's clear they're not yet ready to enter the game. Have you heard the Brazilian position on Lebanon? Iran? Israel? Cuba? Didn't think so.

14. South Korea. When North Korea stays out of the news, South Korea stays out of the news—and I don't think they mind.

15. Turkey. Up Arrow Along with Italy, Turkey seems to be the one country that A) has the muscle and international standing to play a big role in southern Lebanon and B) meets the approval of both Israel and the Lebanese. So why mess up their great standing by actually getting their hands dirty?

16. Canada. I've been waiting patiently for Canada to do something. Any day now.

17. Egypt. Down Arrow Iran's victory (through Hezbollah) is Egypt's loss. Nothing makes an "honest broker" look impotent like the emergence of a "war hero."

18. Australia. Up Arrow They're economically prosperous, politically stable and militarily strong. Oh, and they're Anglo. If history tells us anything, it's that Oceania's borders are about to expand.

19. Poland. America gets a little weaker, France gets a little stronger; Ukraine looks eastward, Germany looks westward; and Poland keeps on truckin'.

20. Saudi Arabia. Down Arrow The house of Saud openly criticized Hezbollah's actions leading up to Israel's invasion. Now, after Hezbollah's "victory", expect the Saudis to lay low for a while.

21. Venezuela. Up Arrow Yes, you're seeing this correctly: Venezuela just jumped ahead of Mexico. Think I'm crazy? Right now, Hugo Chavez is the most influential leader in Latin America, and he's amassed some impressive allies and scored some political victories for his friends along the way. Oh yeah, and oil.

22. Mexico. Down Arrow A nation in the grips of a disputed election is like a man with his testicles in a vice: he's still a man for the time being, but he's not about to make any drastic moves. Look for Mexico to sit out the next few plays.

23. Syria. Up Arrow As Iran's stock rises, so too does Syria. But in that neighborhood, a high profile isn't always what you're going for.

24. Palestine. Down Arrow You can be sure that Hamas is taking notes on Hezbollah.

25. North Korea. Down Arrow You can be sure that Kim Jung-Il is taking notes on
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Almost ranked: Ukraine, Indonesia, Spain, South Africa, Jordan.

7 Comments:

Blogger Malcolm said...

the blog is awesome, keep up the good work!

Anonymous J said...

Hezbollah admits they were wrong.

Doesn't this prove that Israel was correct in its response?

This article sums you up quite nicely.

Blogger Buck B. said...

What, so now we're going to believe what Hezbollah says? Nasrallah is lying through his teeth; he doesn't regret it even a little bit. But it would sure work out well for Hezbollah if people take him at his word.

Blogger J-Flash said...

Thoughts:

You give Pakistan too much credit right now. Terrorist breeding ground, maybe. But even that is really just a bunch of mountains Bush can't (and Musharraf doesn't want to) tackle. And if it weren't there, it'd be somewhere else. Point of fact, Les Pakis are not really influential yet beyond South Asia. The country deserves to be in stasis a bit lower in the rankings. The most consequential action it can take is not letting relations with India deteriorate further.

Speaking of a "What If?" scenario, here's one: In pulling away from ties to India, Musharraf begins to lose control. The country gets riled up and shifts rightward. Musharraf responds like the strongman he's got buried inside and unleashes the army. Martial law. Chaos. He is assassinated (or otherwise ousted). The U.S. characteristically washes it's hands. Gandhi, Jinna and Nehru role over in their graves. Savarkar claps loudly. Meanwhile, back in Pak, Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif makes a power grab, despite legally being unable to assert a claim. (If I've lost you now, I recommend wikipedia.) They have no authority and are either cut down by militant clerical interests or propped up as a puppets of the religious right. Finger on the button. Scary, no? Granted that's all doomsday talk, and quite frankly don't believe it could happen. Truth be told, I think Pakistan will one day pull through. One day.

Anyway, re: the rankings: India I think deserves a step up above Germany. Maybe I'm biased. Or maybe I think you're right about the Merkel coalition falling to pieces. And given how well Hindustan reacted to the bombings in July (i.e. not falling quickly into the hands of BJP and Shiv Sena nationalist politics which would have probably ended the Congress coalition government of Manmohan Singh), the country may just move past it. And of course, you mention nuclear legitimacy. I know a lot of people disagree with me on NPT and the U.S.-India nuclear deal (I'm pro), the subcontinent may have just stepped onto the world stage for good in that arena. Next stop: Security Council and G8.

Also, I think you're on the right track with Brazil. Really all of S. America has issues right now. Chile is arguably the most stable, but it's too small. Take Peru for example. A few months ago, the country elected Alan Garcia, whose administration was responsible for the hyperinflation (thousands of percent) and such overarching clusterfuckery of domestic policy a few decades ago that the Shining Path took hold. And of course the Andean Community of Nations and the Mercosur keep opposing one another in policy matters. Now if Peru and Chile continue to improve relations -- and maybe sort out border disputes between themselves and with Bolivia -- then maybe the ACN will have a chance. And if it can effectively convince Brazil to pony up. And again, if Alan Garcia can keep himself from being a douche. But I digress.

Lastly, I give the Saudis (and other members of the Arab League) points for standing up against Hizbullah, even though it ended up "winning." Maybe not a lot of points, but a few. Those moderate voices will ultimately be needed in unclusterfucking the Near East.

Blogger J-Flash said...

After discussing hyperinflation with Gordon, I think I should expand. Alan Garcia was president of Peru from 1985 to 1990. He will best be remembered for the cumulative 2.2 million percent inflation rate for his five year term of office. And for giving Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path something to talk (or kill/maim/burn) about.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Iran should be #1. They are playing the rest of the world like a violin.

Anonymous avneron said...

it's a nice list, but i think the rankings are more a reflection of short-term PR gains, rather than real analysis of international influence and power.

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